Mike Landman’s 7 Rules for Job Seekers

You are a product. Your resume and interview are your marketing. And a product has to differentiate itself  to have a chance of being noticed and valued. It astonishes me to continually get the same generic resumes, the same attempt to prove diverse skills, and the same generic answers – that I must conclude are coming from the world of resume/interview advice. The prevailing theory seems to be "offend no one, never take your self out of contention." Imagine that process recruiting for a sports team or a movie cast. Terrible. So I have my rules.

No one else will have my same rules, which leads us to Rule #1.

  1. There is no such thing as the right resume, no right interview.
    Remember, this is not much more than a professional date. There are certainly a few things to do every time (no burping, no shorts), but every employer is different in nearly every other way. It's easier to be yourself than to try to figure me out.
  2. You can't fake who are without being no one.
    When you try to be the person you think I like, I don't like you. Because you seem insincere and full of…something. There is no need to fake who you are, or what your background is. You don't know what I want.
  3. This is a 2-way street.
    You'd better be interviewing me too. We're in this together, so there is not a lot to be gained by being a sycophant in the interview. Make sure you want the job. More importantly, make sure you want the company. I should be selling my company to you too.
  4. Well-rounded is safe. And safe is dangerous.
    Name one well-rounded famous athlete. OK, there are two. Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson. And neither could play hockey. But basically, no others. Even MJ couldn't do it. Well-rounded means you are not awesome at anything. And I'm looking for awesome. At something.
  5. You are weak. At something, probably many things. So "struggling" to find a weakness is lame. A weakness of being "too organized" is lame. When I see that pained expression where you try to find weaknesses but "can't think of any," I think: "weak." Trot out your real weaknesses, they accentuate your strengths .
  6. Leave me with a story to tell.
    I am going to leave our meeting with an impression of you. And, if you have done well, a story to tell others about why you're the person for the job. So find a pointed, true narrative to weave in about yourself that touches the every part of the interview from beginning to end. No story = lost in the shuffle.
  7. Thank me. Twice.
    The moment you get home, do 2 things. Send me an email thanks, and drop a real ( handwritten!) thank you note in the mail. Even if you bombed #1-6, a handwritten note will put you back in contention. Class stands out.

Extra Bonus for Entry-Level Job Seekers: 

  • If you are entry-level, I am looking for a bargain.
    The very nature of entry-level is: “I'm cheap, and I'm willing to prove
    myself.” You can't be bringing experience, which means you need to
    bring something else. Ambition, a record of achievement, raw talent,
    personality, something. Something that makes me think you're a bargain.
    Because cheap labor, absent some returned value, is not a bargain. Figure out what your something is.


I finished Dan Pink's book, Drive, today. In it, Dan basically unveils the science behind why freedom in the workplace is going to be this generation's most important business revolution. Here is Dan's TED Talk, which is a good primer for the book.

If you are familiar with a ROWE (Results Only Work Environment), think of Drive as reverse engineering why ROWEs work. If you're not familiar with ROWE, here's a good story from Business Week.

ROWE is basically the tactical implementation of the belief that people with freedom, trust, clear goals, and autonomy work better. I wrote a short essay in the Atlanta Business Chronicle about Ripple's experience with ROWE last year:

Here's the unedited essay (proving that there is a good reason to have editors…):

Ripple was never the kind of place to track every
minute of people's time, to watch over their shoulders. In 2002 there just 5 of
us, things were pretty loose, and that's how we liked it.  But by 2007 we had 23 people, and
little things started to get in the way: John sees the doctor a lot. Judy
always seems to be a little late. Sometimes Angie “gets” to work from home. Bob
shows up, but never seems to get much done. So to resolve the tensions, the
management team started making more rules, hashing out policies. Taking
control. That seemed to be the thing to do, right? Set more rules, do more
policing. You know what? More policing sucks. It takes one chunk of the smart
people and turns them into cops. And it takes the remaining smart people and
turns them into children. One group gets control, the other loses control. Less
real work gets done. Control, it turns out, is not the answer. Freedom is.


Finding Freedom


I first read about a Results Only Work
Environment (ROWE) years ago, when Best Buy was pioneering it. It sounded
awesome: People work where they want, when they want, so long as the work
gets done. Work Utopia! But, like many Work Utopia readings, it lost my
attention. Best Buy is a big, big company. Ripple is a small one. So it was
hard to figure out how such a system might translate to me.


Hard to figure out how until last year when I was
speaking with my friend Craig, whom I know through Entrepreneur's Organization
(EO). He said that his company, Matchstic, was a ROWE. His 10-person company
was a ROWE, and it was working. I had to dig deeper, so I talked to Craig for
hours. I had him come in and talk to my team, and we all read the book, Why
Work Sucks. Three months later, Ripple was a ROWE.


The Freedom of Freedom


What does it mean to be a ROWE? Well, in a ROWE,
people are responsible for themselves, their teams, and their results. Goals
are set together, but tactics are largely left to individuals and teams. There
is no babysitting. People and teams are judged by their outcomes (this is both
easier and harder than I thought it would be). At Ripple results are things
like how many service cases get closed. How happy clients report that they are.
Sales numbers. Results Only. Pretty much the way you want to be judged,
right? Well, there's a good reason for that: It's how everyone wants to be


The Hard Part


Here is the hardest part about a ROWE: Figuring
out what constitutes acceptable results. But we should have been doing that
anyways. In a traditional work environment things like working long hours,
being at your desk, and watching your time are proxies for results. Terrible
proxies. Plenty of people can show up everyday and turn in lousy results. Ripple
was using those proxies because we didn't have the discipline – or the courage
– to let results speak for themselves.


The Best Part


We are very new to ROWE, but the resulting
freedoms – for people, innovations, and management – have already
buried themselves in the culture. Management policing is nearly gone for the
simple fact that no one at Ripple is going to let a poor performer screw-up a
marvelously free work environment. Here's a result that makes it all
worthwhile: I spend 50% less time managing people and enforcing rules, leaving
me me free to think about other things. Like how to grow my businesses.

The new winners are not always the old winners.

This is one of the more interesting takes on the music industry I have seen in print, from Topspin CEO Ian Rogers.

It's a reminder that just because the old guard loses, that doesn't mean there is an industry in duress.

Insert whatever industry you want into this paradigm. The US auto industry, typesetters, buggy whips, boxed software, railroads, long distance. The music industry is thriving. It's just that the money is going elsewhere.

My favorite blurb:

"The lamenting we read in the press is not the story of the new music business. Continuing to talk about the health of the music industry on these terms is as if we’d all been crying about the dying cassette business in 1995. The difference is that when we moved from cassette to CD the winners were the same (big companies who owned access to cash, distribution, and marketing) and the definition of winning was the same (more units sold for these big companies)."

WiFi as public charity

Remember when your Pets.com stock raced down from $60 to $2 and you didn’t sell? That was a bad idea. You regret that, because it was wildly overvalued even at $2 and deep down you knew better. But the Fallacy of Sunk Costs consumed you, and you were determined to make something of your investment. We all know how that story ends (mine ends with a big basket of Webvan).

Well, that’s what is about to happen in Philadelphia, where the Mother-of-All-Bubbles, Municipal WiFi, is going to be attempted once again. When that project is done, hopefully the mayor will turn his attention to more pressing citywide issues, like the distribution of free Betamax to every taxpayer.

This will either fail mightily, or become a very large pubic works project.